General’s reckless remarks dangerous

Addressing 3000 troops from 2 Brigade undergoing a battlefield training exercise in Mutoko on Tuesday, Chedondo said soldiers should be involved in partisan politics as they were a “political animal” and part of the game.

 

“As soldiers, we will never be apologetic for supporting Zanu-PF because it is the only political party that has national interests at heart,” he said.
As if that was not bad enough,  Chedondo continued with a straight face:

“The answer that I am giving those politicians who always ask if it is right for soldiers to be partisan is that the defence forces must exhibit the national outlook,” he said.

“We cannot be seen supporting a political party that is going against the ideals of a nation, which came by as a result of a liberation struggle. As soldiers we must support ideologies that we subscribe to. I for one will not be apologetic for supporting Zanu PF because I was part of the liberation struggle.”

Frankly, there is nothing new in what Chedondo said. He has previously said much the same thing. In fact, before every election, Chedondo and his cohorts use the same scare tactics to frighten voters from casting their ballots for anybody besides Zanu PF and President Robert Mugabe.

Most senior Joint Operations Command (JOC) security service chiefs —  including ZDF commander General Constantine Chiwenga — have taken the same partisan and illegal stance on party politics and elections. JOC, which brings together army, police and intelligence chiefs, is the power behind Mugabe’s throne and this is encouraging security forces to meddle in politics blatantly.

 

What would have shocked many though were not Chedondo’s statements as such, but the bravado and recklessness with which they were delivered. Had the remarks been made by a junior and naïve military officer, they could have easily been dismissed as overzealous and wet behind the ears, but coming from a senior army commander — the Chief of Staff himself — they must be viewed seriously by all those who believe in the tenets of a constitutional democracy and the rule of law.

Firstly, Chedondo’s remarks are not just unlawful and dangerous to the security of the nation and himself, but also foolhardy.  

To begin with, the constitution and the law are clear. The army is there to defend Zimbabwe from external enemies and that has nothing to do with internal partisan politics. The ZDF troops are state employees, paid by taxpayers’ money contributed by workers who belong to different political parties, and should not be allowed to act in a partisan and unlawful manner.

 

Secondly, Chedondo does not seem to understand the role of a professional army in a democracy. He seems to think soldiers are employed to defend Mugabe and Zanu PF — which he appears to confuse with Zimbabwe’s territorial security and interests. Yet it is very clear from the constitution and the law their role is not to meddle in politics.

Thirdly and lastly, it must be said that what Chedondo and his colleagues are doing is dangerous. More than anything else happening now, it destabilises peace and security. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that if this was a democratic and civilised society, Chedondo would have been court-martialled and punished or dismissed.

Several other army commanders and security force chiefs have done the same –– showing this is a systematic and coordinated campaign to undermine the constitutional order and create chaos, to give a pretext for military intervention.

 

If the truth be told without fear or favour, his remarks border on treason, the very same charges Zanu PF frivolously brings against legitimate and democratic dissent. What Chedondo has said are not legitimate democratic comments but an attempt to undermine the constitutional order and the rule of law.

The explosive situation the military has created can easily deteriorate and reach a flashpoint but a day will come when bullets will be overcome by votes. As Victor Hugo said, “No army can stop an idea whose time has come”.

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